ANDERSON, S.C. – The Anderson University volleyball team returns to the friendly confines of the Abney Athletic Center this weekend, as Tusculum and Lincoln Memorial visit the Electric City for a pair of South Atlantic Conference matchups.
The Trojans will square off against Tusculum, Friday night at 7 p.m., with AU and Lincoln Memorial facing off at 2 p.m., Saturday.
Admission to each volleyball match is free.
Anderson (13-1, 4-0 SAC) is coming off a five-set win at Newberry two nights ago and is looking to extend its win streak to 10 matches. The Trojans have surpassed the 2004 squad for the best start in program history and are also seeking to stretch their home win streak to 19 matches, as they have not lost in the Abney Center since falling to Newberry on Oct. 18, 2016.
The Trojans lead the SAC in kills and are second in the league in kills per set, hitting percentage, assists per set and total digs.
Junior standout Emily Conlin continues to lead the conference in assists, assists per set and aces, while ranking 16th in digs. The Glendale, Ariz., native is the only player in the SAC with more than 500 assists and more than 100 digs and has notched five double-doubles this season, while reaching the 40+ assist plateau seven times.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Grube has three double-doubles to her credit and has reached double-figure kills in nine contests, including three straight and six of the last seven outings. The Colfax, N.C., native leads AU and ranks second in the SAC with 144 kills on the season and is tied for fourth in the SAC with 16 aces.
Senior Jayln Knight leads the team with six double-doubles, including two straight and has tallied double-digit kills on six occasions. The native of Redlands, Calif., has posted nine matches with at least 11 digs, including at least 20 on two occasions. She is one of only four players in the league to have more than 100 digs and 100 kills.
Redshirt sophomore Hailee Wilhelm is third on the team with 82 kills and is tied for 14th in the league with 20 block assists, with freshman Meghan DeVaux pacing the Trojans and ranking fifth in the conference with 188 digs.
The Pioneers, who posted a 15-16 overall record a season ago, including a 10-10 mark and a fourth-place finish in the conference, were a preseason pick to finish sixth in the 2018 SAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
After winning back-to-back matches to open the season, Tusculum (2-6, 0-2 SAC) has suffered six straight setbacks.
The Pioneers returned seven letterwinners from last year's squad, including senior outside hitter Cassie Born and senior libero Melissa Mazur. Born was named First-Team Preseason All-Conference after leading the Pioneers in total kills and kills per set last season while earning a spot on the All-SAC Second Team. Her 320 kills were sixth in the conference while her 2.96 kills per set average was ninth-best in the league. She averaged 3.21 digs per set and tallied 13 double-doubles and posted season-highs with 26 kills and 26 digs against Lincoln Memorial.
Mazur surpassed the 2,000 career dig plateau two nights ago at LMU, becoming only the third player in program history to achieve the feat.
The Series vs. Tusculum
Tusculum owns a 15-9 advantage in the overall series that dates back to the 1997 season, with eight of AU's victories coming since the 2013 campaign. The Pioneers claimed the first-ever meeting in 1997, with the series lapsing for six years before the two squads met again, with AU taking a 3-1 win in Greeneville, Tenn., during the 2004 campaign.
Tusculum had won 12 consecutive decisions past the Trojans, with eight coming since Anderson joined the SAC in 2010, before AU defeated the Pioneers twice in the 2013 postseason. The Trojans outlasted Tusculum in five sets in the SAC Tournament semifinals, then upset the fourth-seeded Pioneers, 3-1, in the opening round of the NCAA Southeast Regional, marking Anderson's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.
The Trojans have won four straight and six of the last seven matchups on the strength of sweeping the last two seasons' regular-season matchups.
The Lady Railsplitters, who posted a 13-16 overall record a season ago, including an 8-12 mark and a seventh-place finish in the SAC, were a preseason pick to finish fifth in the 2018 SAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
LMU (6-2, 2-0 SAC) has won two straight and is coming off a 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-22) sweep of Tusculum two nights ago in Harrogate, Tenn., while improving to 6-0 at home on the season. The Lady Railsplitters will square off against Newberry on Friday night in their first true road contest of the season.
Earlier this week, redshirt junior Tone Gill was named the SAC Player of the Week after recording 11 kills on a season-high .333 hitting percentage in LMU's 3-1 home victory over Queens.
The Series vs. Lincoln Memorial
The Trojans and Lady Railsplitters have met 22 times over the last 15 seasons, including 18 meetings since AU joined the South Atlantic Conference for the 2010 campaign.
LMU holds a 15-7 advantage in the overall series between the two schools, with Anderson snapping a nine-match skid at the hands of the Lady Railsplitters in the first meeting five seasons ago and defeating LMU three times during the 2014 campaign, including a 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-13) decision in the opening round of the SAC Championship. After LMU swept the 2015 and 2016 matchups, the Trojans returned the favor by blanking the "Splitters twice last season.
In last year's matchups, Hughes knocked down 12 kills, with Knight posting 11 kills and 17 digs in the two contests. Conlin handed out 62 assists and came up with 15 digs. Conard recorded 16 digs in the sweeps, with Megan Embry posting five aces.